By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
“I had always wanted to give back to the community,” Custred said. “They had given me as a baseball player so much, by coming to the games and supporting everything we do. I just wanted to find a way to give back, and this was the perfect opportunity. It was more than I ever could of hoped for to have happened.”
Custred is a part of a non-profit organization called Play It Forward USA. Started in late 2011, the mission of the organization is “to collect gently used sporting equipment and apparel, and donate them to families of need in our community.”
“It all started with one of my good friends having a serious back injury and was out of baseball for a while,” Custred said. “He missed it, missed playing baseball so he thought of ways he could help the community out while he was hurt. He came up with the idea of getting equipment to people who can’t afford it so they could play the sports they love.”
The group of high school baseball players from Keller, Texas had humble beginnings. That didn’t discourage them, however, or the people who they reached out to for initial donations.
“We started small,” Custred said. “We went door to door, asking our neighbors if they had any extra equipment that they’re not using, for any sport. We actually got a lot of equipment, probably around $1,000 to $2,000 of equipment just doing that. That was really helpful to start off.”
The organization would soon find its first major beneficiary, when a fire burned through a local warehouse.
“What really put us on the map was a team from Oak Cliff (near Dallas) called down and said their warehouse burnt down,” Custred said. “They needed any kind of football equipment. Through a fundraiser, we got it around that we needed a bunch of football equipment and the whole neighborhood and community showed up and we got a bunch of equipment.”
Play It Forward was a resounding success, and Custred pointed to the reactions of the people as the reward for helping out.
“We ended up oversupplying them, so they would be good for years to come,” he said. “And the look on the kids’ faces was all that we needed to know we were doing the right thing.”
Custred and the rest of Play It Forward turned a potential tragedy into a positive, and began to grow the organization to reach further into the community.
“After that we got a lot of help from everywhere,” Custred said. “We co-partnered with an organization called the Pro Players Foundation, so we had all kinds of professional athletes, which was really cool, and it just took off from there. We have a big warehouse with all kinds of equipment (baseball, football, tennis, basketball), and it has gone pretty well.”
Custred is quick to mention that while he loves and plays baseball, Play It Forward provides equipment without discrimination, supplying any and all sports.
“We started off thinking it would just be baseball,” he said. “But then we thought, ‘if we’re going to go somewhere to get equipment, why not get all kinds of equipment and help out everybody?’”
Like many athletes, Custred is driven by his love of the game, and continually points to that as being the reason for his service.
“I can’t imagine myself not playing baseball because I can’t afford to play,” Custred said. “If they can’t afford it, and that is what is keeping them from playing the sport they love, we will give it to them within a heartbeat. That shouldn’t be what comes between something you love and something you want to do.”
Despite being just a sophomore at Texas Tech, Custred exhibits a maturity that goes beyond his 20 years of age.
“[Coming to Tech] really put things in perspective for me,” Custred said. “And how extremely lucky I am, and how much God has been there to help me out through the times. Just being out there and knowing only about five percent of the world gets to do what I do is the best feeling in the world.”
Custred continues to put that perspective to good work, giving back to the community despite being away from home.
“It’s tough for me because we are more located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area,” Custred said. “But I get calls all the time about kids, whose parents may not be able to afford football pads. So I’ll make a call down to Keller and say I need pads, pants, and a helmet, and tell them where to take it, and it will be there that day or the next.”
This humanitarianism is what has vaulted Play It Forward onto the national, and even global, scale. According to its website, Play It Forward recently helped out and donated equipment in areas such as Africa, Haiti, and Honduras.
And while they are able to help globally, the chapters are still located in Texas. This is the area Custred speaks about improving.
“We really wanted to branch out to more than just Texas or Dallas/Fort Worth area,” Custred said. “Our major goal is to branch out through the USA and for people to have branches from Texas to Chicago to California, so that way not only people in Texas can play the sports they love. It’s everywhere.”
To accomplish this goal, Play It Forward collects as much equipment as they can, and can then redistribute it where it needs to go.
“We take in all equipment,” Custred said. “Even if it is a glove without laces, we will take it and relace it ourselves. We are going to fix it up and make it look and function as brand new as possible.”
Play It Forward is driven by donations, and Custred invites any and everyone to look up the organization, and help out if needed.
“The website is www.playitforwardusa.org,” Custred said. “You can go there and there is a link with contact info, so you can send us an email or give us a call, and we can definitely help you out.”
Custred continues to use his role as a pitcher for Texas Tech to his advantage to further help others.And just like every time he records a strikeout, Custred gets the assist.